What I Learned From a Year of Living Ayurveda
I bought my first book on the topic of Ayurveda years before I went to my first yoga class. At that time I was extremely interested in how food affected my moods and my state of health and was beginning to take the first small steps of my own personal healing journey. I loved how Ayurveda spoke about constitutional types as well as seasonal considerations, rather than simply a one approach fits all philosophy. It made sense to me. Though not much else that I read in the book did, as I had no context for it at the time.
Years later I found yoga and my personal practice became a central part of my self-care regime. I continued to eat a healthy whole foods diet, as I had for many years, but I still suffered from painful and difficult menstrual cycles, skin breakouts, and irregular energy so I knew there was more work that needed to be done in optimizing my health.
When I started my Yoga School I knew I wanted to bring in teachers who could lecture on the Ayurvedic lifestyle and share what they knew with the teachers I was training, so I invited my friend Kimberly Loeb to teach with me. Kimberly had studied directly with Maya Tiwari who is a well-known teacher and Ayurvedic Wise Woman who has written a number of inspiring and practical books. Kimberly taught us about the three pillars of Maya’s Wise Earth approach, which are Breath, Sound, and Food. We would make chutneys and masala’s while chanting beautiful mantras and Kimberly would teach us the basics of Ayurveda in a way that was easy to grasp and at the same time hinted to the richness and depth of this great tradition. Every time Kim came to teach with me my interest in Ayurveda was renewed, but I still hadn’t cracked the code of how to bring it into my everyday life. However on Kim’s last visit to Tofino, before she moved to Boulder in spring of last year, she gave me a beautiful blue bottle filled with homemade massage oil and told me to use it for self massage. I began doing daily self massage with that oil, which was infused with Kimberly’s loving intention and healing power, and through that a deeper interest in what Ayurveda had to offer me was awakened.
So last spring I signed up for a one month Yogi Detox with Ayurvedic practioner Cate Stillman. I had heard of Cate through the Anusara Yoga grapevine as she had been teaching the method for a number of years and owned a small studio in Driggs Idaho. Her one month online program came with an entire binder full of brightly colored handouts full of information on how to create a cleanse that would suit my individual constitution as well as weekly support calls full of educational and inspiring dialogue that helped me to take on the daily practices she was teaching, not only for the duration of the cleanse, but for a lifetime. During that month I realized profound shifts in my body as I cleared out the ama (toxins/buildup) that had accumulated in my system due to stress, late nights, too much sugar and caffeine, and the monthly Tylenol pills that I was now taking to deal with my menstrual cramps. By the end of the month I was entirely caffeine free, despite working long days with teacher training, and I was more energized than ever. As well my meditation practice deepened and I experienced new found sensitivity and a heightened sense of intuition and inner knowing. I was hooked and I knew I had only touched the surface of what was possible in terms of radiant health so I signed up for Cate’s nine month Living Ayurveda Course which is a course where Cate combines traditional Ayurvedic wisdom with Living & Wild Foods inspiration.
When the course started last autumn I was feeling good after six months of eating a cleaned up diet, sticking to the daily rhythm or Dinacharya, and minimizing caffeine and sugar. Yet I still had difficult menstrual cycles and suffered from fibrocystic breast condition, which flared up each month along with my temper. My skin still broke out regularly and I felt that there was a big gap between what I was eating and what my family was eating. Well the course finished this week and I can now report that I have pain free cycles and haven’t had sore breasts in over half a year. My skin has finally cleared and I no longer need to use powerful medications to control it- in fact I am now making my own skin care products out of simple and cheap kitchen ingredients. As well my husband has shifted to a plant based diet (of his own accord) and is eating better than ever before. In addition to this I have discovered how much I love sharing what I have learned with others. This year I taught the Ayurvedic Lifestyle portion of my teacher trainings and because I was with them for the whole month I could weave the teachings in from day one. The result was that the students taking my trainings this year were more grounded, calm, nourished and well rested and therefore enjoyed their training experience that much more. Many of them have written to me since to tell me that they have kept up the lifestyle and diet practices and that they are serving them well. I have also started offering very simple seasonal wisdom workshops live, and via teleclass, which combine recipes, tips for seasonal yoga practice, home remedies and supportive information. I love teaching these classes and look forward to refining and developing them more as time goes on.
One year after I first made a real commitment to bring the teachings and practices of Ayurveda into my life I am amazed at how much I have learned and how many positive and nourishing changes I have made. But what really excites me is the fact that, like Yoga, Ayurveda is a vast subject and though you can learn the essence of it in a relatively short time, you can also study it for the rest of your life and never come to the end. So as this first year of living Ayurveda comes to an end for me I know it is really just the very beginning of a journey that will last a lifetime.